Friday, 18 October 2013

Quotes of the Week: From press chews up charter to what's behind Piers Morgan's bravado?

Hugo Rifkind in The Times: "Of course, supporters will pretend this isn’t a press law, as they have been doing all along, but it’s a shabby pose. Ultimately the great distinction between these two charters was the role of Parliament. What the press wanted for Parliament was no role at all. Whereas what Parliament wanted, and got, was to be the final backstop; the great overlord, the deciding voice as to whether this mooted new regulator was doing its job. That’s a law. That’s what a law is. This is precisely the sort of situation that old saying about things that look and quack like ducks was devised for. It’s a great big quacking law."

Boris Johnson in the Telegraph: "Stuff all this malarkey about the Privy Council and a Royal Charter. Who are the Privy Council, for goodness’ sake? They are just a bunch of politicians, a glorified version of the government of the day. We are on the verge of eroding the freedom of the press. We are undermining the work of everyone from John Milton to John Wilkes – men who fought for the right to say and publish things of which politicians disapproved. Why are we embarking on this monstrous folly? Because of a string of essentially political embarrassments that led to the Leveson Inquiry – and at the beginning of it all was the expenses scandal, and the sense among MPs that they had been brutally treated by the press."

Ian Murray, editor of the Southern Daily Echo, in Press Gazette: "The apparent concessions to the regional press could be seen as an attempt to buy us off and leave the fight. However, I will accept these as a well-meaning attempt to address genuine practical concerns the 1,100 local newspapers have over the sheer cost of administering the new regulations andthe threat to some publications’ very existence. But these are practical considerations to be taken in addition to the overall objections from the industry as a whole towards the removal of the principle of a free press. The Culture Secretary and others have made a grave, and I would say frankly insulting mistake in assuming that regional editors see this matter solely in terms of pounds and pence. The principle of a free press is as important to the people of Southampton – or Portsmouth or Oxford or Glasgow – as it is for those who inhabit the corridors of Westminster." 

Daniel Finkelstein in The Times: "Those who want a 'dab of statute', just a tiny bit you know, nothing to worry about, think they are the knights in shining armour, the defenders of the weak. In the end, however, restrictions on freedom of speech always spread, becoming the tool of the intolerant and the enemy of liberal engagement. The idea that because the originators feel themselves well-meaning the result will be benign is awe-inspiringly naive."

The Industry Steering Group, representing newspaper and magazine publishers, in a statement: "We welcome the fact that, after more than six months, politicians are finally seeing some of the flaws in their unacceptable and unilateral March 18 Charter. We will study their latest proposals closely. However this remains a Charter written by politicians, imposed by politicians and controlled by politicians. It has not been approved by any of the newspapers or magazines it seeks to regulate."

Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian on press regulation: "Whatever the solution, it must not involve a royal charter and the privy council. Otherwise it will hand a gag to the most secretive elements of the British state. And, as we saw this week, they are itching to use it."

Fraser Nelson on press regulation in the Mail on Sunday: "The Independent, The Guardian and Financial Times have all shown the least hostility to the Government’s appalling plans – but little wonder. On current trends, all will have morphed into digital news feeds by the end of the decade. There will be fewer newspapers to regulate."

Nick Cohen on the Spectator blog: "No editor should sign up to the Privy Council’s quango – and what an appropriately secretive and medieval body the politicians have chosen to assert their control – for a simple reason. I said at the beginning of this piece that today’s journalists were the “custodians” of press freedom. We do not own it. We merely hold it in trust until we pass it on. It is not ours to relinquish. It most certainly is not ours to relinquish without a fight."

New York Times editor Jill Abramson in the Guardian: "The First Amendment is first for a reason. It makes me feel a little like I'm pontificating to cite the founders of this country, but it's true they were so afraid of centralised power that they saw a free press as the critical bulwark against unbridled government – and that is our role."

Paul Dacre in the Guardian responds to the storm over the Mail's Ralph Miliband feature: "The hysteria that followed is symptomatic of the post-Leveson age in which any newspaper which dares to take on the left in the interests of its readers risks being howled down by the Twitter mob who the BBC absurdly thinks represent the views of real Britain."
The Observer in a leader "It is unfortunate that British journalism is unable to distinguish between our own interests and a matter of principle that affects all our readers. Using the Snowden revelations as an excuse to grind old axes doesn't serve Britons or Britain very well."

Ian Burrell in the Independent: "The charge against The Guardian is treason.It is couched in terms of a reckless betrayal of Britain’s national security – but the paper’s real crime, in the eyes of the right-wing press, is that it sold its industry down the river. It was The Guardian that broke the story of the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone, prompting the closure of the News of the World and setting in train tougher regulation of the press as proposed yesterday in a Royal Charter. At the Daily Mail, the left-wing title is hated even more. Paul Dacre, the Mail’s editor-in-chief, regards The Guardian’s worldview as being diametrically opposed to his own."

Jay Rosen blogs on Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar's new journalism venture, which has recruited Glenn Greenwald from the Guardian:"Omidyar believes that if independent, ferocious, investigative journalism isn’t brought to the attention of general audiences it can never have the effect that actually creates a check on power. Therefore the new entity — they have a name but they’re not releasing it, so I will just call it NewCo — will have to serve the interest of all kinds of news consumers. It cannot be a niche product. It will have to cover sports, business, entertainment, technology: everything that users demand. At the core of Newco will be a different plan for how to build a large news organization."

Eric Price, the ex-Western Daily Press editor who died this week, quoted in an obit in the Telegraph: “Nothing wrong with Shakespeare a good sub couldn’t put right.”

Celia Walden (aka Mrs. Piers Morgan) on her husband in the Guardian: "There is not a single insecure bone in his body. People always say, 'What's it like behind the bravado?' And I say, 'I'm afraid there's just more bravado.'"

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